To prevent bridge collapses, such as the disastrous one in Mahad that claimed 28 lives, the Maharashtra government has, in a first-of-its-kind initiative, planned to put in place a disaster management system to keep a check on the old and dilapidated bridges across the state.
After identifying the most precarious bridges in the state, it will appoint one official to monitor each of these structures during the monsoon.
The chief engineers of all regions have been asked to draw up a list of decrepit bridges and buildings and hire three disaster management officials per structure to work in eight-hour shifts. This will ensure that the bridges are being monitored 24X7 during the monsoon.
The state government also plans to set up a separate unit for the construction, upkeep and monitoring of bridges across the state under the public works department.
“There are about 100 to 125 such bridges, mostly concentrated in Mumbai, Pune and the Konkan region. As of now, there is no dedicated disaster management mechanism in place for old government buildings and bridges of the public works department to immediately respond to mishaps and crisis situations during the monsoon,” said a senior official from the state public works department.
The disaster management personnel will be hired on a contract basis to not only keep a close watch and report any possibilities of damage to the public works department, but also send out warnings to motorists of dangers en route.
The disaster management officials and their immediate supervisors will be personally held accountable for any accidents, the state government has said in a notice.
Meanwhile, the public works department is working on a proposal to set up a new team of engineers to monitor and maintain bridges on the lines of its teams to oversee roads and buildings.
“The dedicated team to oversee bridges will be a part of the state’s public works department. Earlier, the department’s unit that looked after roads would also take care of the bridges. The new team will comprise 25-30 engineers,” said the state official.
The government will train them in the latest technologies available for the construction and maintenance of viaducts and also regularly hold workshops of training reinforcements, he added.